Charter School Achievement: What We Know, 5th Edition

Anna Nicotera
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
April 2009

This fifth iteration of NAPCS's annual review of charter-achievement literature doubles the number of studies evaluated in the previous edition (to 140 from 70), taking into account a much wider scope of charter school studies. The Alliance adopted improved search methods this time around that revealed a host of previously undiscovered research sources from which to choose. Of particular note, several high quality charter studies (like this one and this one) were released in the last year--and found for the most part that students attending charter schools were achieving at significantly higher levels and more likely to attend college than students attending traditional public schools. Unfortunately, charter school studies in general lack methodological rigor, most notably the use of longitudinal data. Only 33 of the 140 studies met the Alliance's metrics for high quality ("panel studies")--and those were conducted in just 15 states, while 25 others have charter schools, too. Fifty-three of the 140 examined student achievement over time but did not use student-level data ("cohort change studies"); 70 used snapshot data, i.e., data from only one point in time ("snapshot studies"). Charter research, notes the report, is simply not keeping up with the sector's growth. And with all the innovative and informative practices happening in these educational incubators, it is more important than ever to have more complete information on their performance. Read the entire report here.

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